House probe sought on rice supply issue

Published February 9, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Ben R. Rosario

Opposition congressmen on Friday called for a congressional inquiry into allegations that greedy rice distributors were trying to create an artificial rice shortage to pump up the price of rice.

The seven members of the Makabayan bloc filed House Resolution 1676 calling for an investigation into the crisis gripping the National Food Authority (NFA).

An administration congressman, Quezon City’s Alfred Vargas, made his own appeal to traders and suppliers not to exploit the shortage of NFA rice in the market, and to maintain the prices of commercial rice.

“If we can maintain the prices of commercial rice, then poor families can afford to buy while waiting for the supply of the NFA. This way we can still help the poor while doing business,” said Vargas, vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

Depleting stocks of cheaper rice that the NFA sells are forcing consumers to buy commercial varieties whose prices, according to the Grains Retailers’ Confederation of the Philippines Inc. (Grecon), could surge to R5 a kilo.

“Let’s trust our President here, who is known to be maka-masa. For the meantime traders should do their part too in helping the poor consumers. Old stocks should maintain the old price,” Vargas, a member of the ruling PDP-Laban party said.

He said Duterte’s decision to allow NFA to import 250,000 metric tons to replenish the thinning buffer stock should not trigger panic.

In HR 1676, the Makabayan group accused the NFA of “drumming up mass hysteria of rice shortage” to pressure the NFA Council into allowing importation of rice.

HR 1676 was introduced by Ariel B. Casilao (Anakpawis Parytlist), Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna), Emmi de Jesus and Antonio L. Tinio (ACT Teachers Partylist), Arlene Brosas and France Castro (Gabriela Partylist) and Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan Partylist.)